Columns

Sat
24
Jun

Gov. Abbott's pen cut transparency like a sword

With the simple act of signing his name, Gov. Greg Abbott completed a trifecta of failure by all branches of state government to defend the people's right to know.

Abbott was proud of himself Thursday for vetoing 50 bills that he claimed were government overreach. One of those was House Bill 2783, regrettably the only government transparency measure to survive the 85th Legislature.

HB 2783, one of the more modest of the sunshine bills introduced this session, would have allowed plaintiffs who sue a government entity for withholding public information to collect attorney fees when the entity ends the suit by turning over the information. Public officials are known to slow-walk an information request to the attorney general's office when they already know good and well that it's public information, or to foot-drag until a lawsuit is filed. They sorely need a deterrent, and HB 2783 would have been one — a mild one, but better than nothing.

Thu
15
Jun

The damage is done Navigating the insurance battlefront

For those affected by the Van Zandt County tornadoes April 29, the recovery and rebuilding phase is now in effect. With 35 years of disaster recovery efforts under my belt, there are things that people who were affected should be made aware of.

You have heard all the stories, like “the more I pay you the more I make” to the “don’t worry I have been doing this for years and will get the money you need,” regarding insurance claims.

Months later, the community is still adjusting to the herd of solicitors and figuring out what insurance is going to pay for and how far it is going to fall short.

Sometimes submitting calls and letters work to no avail and claims remain underpaid. But, there is hope on the insurance battlefront. Those who are insured are entitled to certain rights.

Did you know that after you have received a check for a claim you can reopen the claim? You can file a supplement if your claim was underpaid or items were not paid for.

Thu
15
Jun

Getting too big for our britches

I have never before seen the devastation of a natural disaster up close and personal.  It truly is one of those stop-you-in-your-tracks moments.  Much of my travel takes me down FM 2909, one of the most wrecked areas.  A friend of mine USED to live behind what USED to be Sides Pea Farm.  That whole area is simply gone now.

I'm reminded of a phrase my grandma used to use..."You're getting too big for your britches."  On a much larger scale, I think the whole of humankind has gotten too big for its britches.  Just when we start to act like we're in charge, we are reminded that, indeed, we are not. 

Thu
15
Jun

The Inspired Cook

To all of the readers who are someone’s father, I wish you a joyous day. I hope that you are treated to a delicious meal, too.

At the age of 80, my daddy, Homer Kirkwood, passed away in March of 2004. Charles, my better half, lost his dad, Jesse Ward, in Sept. of 2008, just a few days prior to his 93rd birthday. Since then, Father’s Day hasn’t been the same for either of us.

                In honor of them, I dedicate this column. Both of these men were true Southern gentlemen with a delightful sense of humor.

Growing up during the Great Depression, Daddy ate a lot of beans since they were cheap, but he never tired of them. His grandma prepared his favorite beans, limas, just the way he liked them: soupy, in other words, with a lot of pot liquor or juice.

Thu
15
Jun

The Inspired Cook

This little piggy ate roast beef

                Imprisoned for several days by rainy weather, my better half, Charles, recently requested one of his favorite meals, roast beef, for dinner. Since he rarely asks for anything special, I was happy to oblige.

                Reading between the lines, I instinctively realized what he really craved was a gut-busting meal, not one of the many low-caloric, low-carbohydrate ones I’d been serving him lately. So, I cooked a classic comfort meal, chockfull of calories and carbohydrates, without a green vegetable in sight.

Sat
10
Jun

Mama needs a timeout, too

Timeout is really a wonderful thing. As a mother of a 2-year-old boy and 6-year-old girl, timeout makes an appearance every so often — even if timeout is actually a time for this mama to chill out and take a breather.

Yes, I am a firm believer in a good time out session and a swat on the backend when things start to get out of control.  Some parents frown upon such behavior, calling it atrocious or even barbaric, but I grew up in the generation when Granny would say “Go get a switch, you’re getting it now!”  And boy, let me tell you I got it! One memory sticks out of when I played beauty shop with my Granny’s fluffy Pomeranian and he had a “new do,” for weeks. I don’t think I sat comfortably for weeks following that stunt.  

Thu
01
Jun

Take it slow with Crock-Pots

Lately while formulating recipes, I’ve been thinking outside the box about things to cook inside a crock—a Crock-Pot®, that is. To be technically accurate, I should say slow cooker as Crock-Pot® is a trademarked name brand and not a common name. In other words, a Crock-Pot® is a slow cooker, but not every slow cooker is a Crock-Pot®.

Although the Crock-Pot® was the first slow cooker, its inventor, Irving Naxon, originally called his device the Naxon Beanery. After a four-year wait, Naxon received his patent for his invention in 1940, according to CNET Magazine.

During his childhood, Naxon’s mother told him stories about how she helped prepare her family’s cholent, a thick bean stew traditionally eaten by Jews on the Sabbath. Since the Sabbath is the day of rest, observant Jews are forbidden to work.

Thu
01
Jun

Dealing with flash flooding

Flash flooding happens because heavy rain saturates the ground. The ground cannot absorb any more water, so the water runs – rushes! – toward the lowest spots. Heavy rain can produce flash flooding immediately, which is why it is called “flash” flooding. Sometimes flash floods can occur later.

One problem with flash floods is that the water is dirty, and you can’t see how deep the water is. Water running at 9 miles an hour – and not very deep – is fast enough to knock you off your feet if you try to wade through it. Then you tumble downstream, and you could drown.

In the Army, to check the water depth, an officer commands some private to wade out into the flood. The officer will need a good idea of the depth of the water and its speed before trying to cross the flooded area with any Army vehicles.

Civilians don’t do that. They just drive into the water.

Stop! Don’t drive your car into deep water!

Thu
11
May

The Inspired Cook

Happy Mother’s Day! In honor of my late mother, Johnnie Kirkwood Koonce, I’m dedicating this column to her, the best mom ever.

 A stay-at-home mom during my childhood, my mom planned her menus for the week according to three basic criteria: what she fancied, what we requested, or what her budget would allow. She was a fabulous cook and her repertoire of dishes comprised all types of food. Her Mexican dishes were out of this world! In fact, everything she prepared was scrumptious.

She loved to try new recipes, particularly ones for desserts, and my dad, sister Beckie, and I didn’t mind in the least being her guinea pigs. At times, her kitchen overflowed with an assortment of sweets, neatly stored in the latest Tupperware containers of the day.

Thu
11
May

The depth of a mother’s love

I would like to share with you a true story of a mother's love, the story of a woman who lived in Van Zandt County in 1904. Her story is recorded on a microfilm of a county newspaper. Her name was Mrs. George Osborn, and except for a tragic accident, she would be completely forgotten by this time by all except maybe some family members.

One Sunday evening in 1904 Mr. and Mrs. Osborn and their infant child were returning from church in a wagon. Suddenly the team bolted. Mrs. Osborn was thrown over the front of the wagon, her clothing catching on a part of it. She was dragged over 100 yards, the story says. Her clothing was stripped from her body and she sustained injuries from which she died the next evening.

While being dragged on the ground, Mrs. Osborn managed to hold the baby in her arms so that it received no serious injury.

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